Dual Quads? 1963 Pontiac Catalina 389

This one is a head-scratcher. It’s a sharp-looking ’63 Pontiac Catalina, one with an interesting take on performance. It is a significant car as it signifies the beginning of the end for full-size hot-rods owing to the upcoming introduction of the iconic GTO. The large-sized performance was hardly over at this point but the changes were-a-comin’! But again, this one is a bit different than how Pontiac intended, so let’s look her over. This Catalina is located in Chandler, Arizona and is available, here on craigslist for $13,500. Thanks to Matt R for this tip!

This Catalina appears to have been originally equipped with a two-barrel carburetor equipped 389 CI V8 engine good for 215 gross HP. What’s really interesting is that this big Pontiac has a three-speed manual transmission putting the 389’s power to the rear wheels. And it still remains as a column shifted arrangement – the temptation to cut a hole in the floor and covert to a floor shift, and/or swap in a four-speed manual gearbox, has been avoided. The seller states that this Catalina is all original with a mileage reading of 68K miles though there is no claim or documentation to certify the odometer reading.

Here’s where things become the noted head-scratcher, there is a second image of the engine sporting a pair of four-barrel carburetors! What gives? I wish I could explain but the seller makes no mention of any engine modification, much less how it runs, and there was no dual four-holer option available in ’63. Is this the original engine with a big carburetor upgrade? It could be, but one has to imagine replacing a Rochester Dual-Jet with a pair of fours, while not affecting any other engine enhancements, probably has left this Catalina with unusual operating characteristics. And that said, the modified mill does not appear to be in running condition as the belts and sparkplugs are missing from what looks like replacement aluminum cylinder heads. So much for the “all original” claim. Mysteries, Mysteries…

The exterior of this Catalina has captured the early sixties full-size hot-rod vibe pretty effectively with its baby-moon equipped, chrome reverse wheels while sporting white stripe tires (though the passenger-side front tire has gone rogue). The seller states that the body is rust-free and there is no indication of corrosion or body damage. The finish, which appears to be code 22269 Saddle Bronze, is not the first shade that comes to mind for promoting a hot-rod image but it is, at least, still in very sound shape as is all of the stainless trim.

The seller states that the interior is “in great condition” and that appears to be the case. There is one image of the driver’s seating surface and it looks to be either discolored or dirty, but it’s not worn or split. Cars of this era have a lot of painted steel interior surfaces and this Catalina is no exception but it too shows well and is not scratched. Good to see is the inclusion of seatbelts and the original radio.

This is a great set-up and a reminder of how things “yousetabee” before the advent of the GTO that so completely changed the domestic high-performance game. Unfortunately, this Catalina’s listing leaves us with more questions than answers. What do you think, worth pursuing with a few questions?

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  1. Bmac777 Member

    It would be interesting to see how it runs with that carb swap.
    Like when someone swaps a 750 spreadbore quadrajet on to a low compression 2bbl 350 auto w/273’s and then blames the “Quadrabog” for lack of performance

    Like 11
  2. Steve R

    The cylinder head is missing several head bolts on the deal quad engine shot. Those are unpainted cast iron, not aluminum. It would be wise to ask the seller specific questions about its mechanical condition and what set up the car comes with.

    Steve R

    Like 10
  3. Arby

    Step on it!


    Like 5
  4. Bob C.

    I’ll take that three on the tree over the terrible Roto Hydramatic.

    Like 13
    • local_sheriff

      That’d be a smart move. I know BOPs sold with the 3spd manual as base tranny, however can someone enlighten me whether this is the same unit Chev used just with a BOP bellhousing? Or is it a BOP specific transmission that’s more capable of handling the more torquey BOP engines?

      Like 2
      • Terry J

        Many such GM cars used the famous Ford 3.03 top loader 3 speed transmission. Just about bulletproof . :-) Terry J

        Like 5
      • local_sheriff

        Yup Terry – GM would offer the ‘Dearborn’ 3spd as a HD unit in the mid 60s but I’ve read it wasn’t introduced before Feb ’64…?

        Like 2
  5. GTPRED99 Member

    Dual quads came on the 421 Super Duty.

    Like 9
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      OK, curiously, that one isn’t listed in the ’63 Pontiac literature. They cap out there with the three deuce 421.


      Like 5
    • Goatsnvairs

      The Swiss Cheese aluminum front end too!

  6. chipl

    With both engines, the heater core is bypassed, but it’s not hard to replace. Too many questions to buy long distance.

    Like 3
  7. Thomas Smith

    I believe…don’t quote me…that there was a Grand National edition in 63, but it was relegated to the Grand Prix?

    Like 3
    • Tman

      There was a Super Duty 389 available with 385 hp in 62 according to Hemmings classic cars.

      Like 1
    • Goatsnvairs

      That would be the trophy 425A 389 tripower in the GP.

      Like 2
  8. SteveP

    I’d bet a sure disappointment on closer inspection. The front bumper seems to be slightly twisted and the passenger front fender is misaligned. The frame could be tweaked. The difference in paint sheen between the passenger door and fender could indicate the fender’s been replaced. The blue overspray on the passenger fender well indicates this is not the first time the engine’s been prettied. Less impressed with the interior than you seem to be, there’s a lot of grease ground into the driver side and I dread to think what the carpet looks like under that cheap mat.

    I expect it to sit a while longer at that price.

    Like 2
    • Daral

      I’d like to see a more detailed (honest?)description of the engine

  9. EPO3

    A buddy of mine had 389 3 two’s and eight lug wheels I had a 1969 road runner 383 4 spd with a little money in it It. I was in shock he was in my quarter window all the way through the gates. By the way he didn’t get a rematch

    Like 7
    • Dave Peterson

      Automotive News would publish “rear wheel” horsepower numbers every few years. Pontiac was always 20% higher. My butt dump always confirmed that judgement.

      Like 2
      • Dave Peterson

        Dump = dyno. GD spell check

        Like 2
      • CCFisher

        An accurate butt dump is an asset!

        Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week!

        Like 5
  10. pixelpusher

    My first car was one of these with the automatic. White with red interior. Great car with an enormous trunk you could live in.

    Like 4
  11. W72WW3

    Would be curious to see the PHS on it. Being listed on CL would make give anyone a reason to go into full question mode…

    Like 1
  12. Daral

    Dont see any headers or exhaust manifolds either

    Like 2
  13. pwtiger

    The car looks shiny when wet, if this is the original lacquer it could be a problem. Did they push it onto the street?

    Like 1
  14. Frank B.

    RE Quadrabog,
    That comment is only made by people who don’t know how to work on carbs.
    If the back air flap is adjusted right, It won’t have a Bog.
    There is also a vacuum pot that can be tweaked for adjustment of the secondaries.
    There is no problem running them on a low compression motor if tuned properly.

    Like 8
    • Cav427

      Hello Frank B., Is the cam for the 2 bbl to 4 bbl up to the task? I doubt adding 3 2bbls or 2 4bbls to an engine that was set up for a single 2bbl carb would pick up any apreciable HP or torque gains. It would probably sound better, but at the end of the day you still have lower compression with the original 2bbl camshaft. Not telling, asking…

    • Charles Sawka

      Providing the valve train is up to spec and can handle the volume of air.

  15. Craigo

    I bought a year old 1963 Pontiac Catalina Convertible navy with light blue top and interior. The worst car that I bought in all my years because sadly it didn’t have power steering.

    My next two cars were 1965 and 1967 GTO convertibles which I wish that I still had😥

    Like 2
  16. Chris A

    My first car was a 1962 Catalina with 3 on the tree 389 and no radio.

    It was 20 years old when I got it – 5 years in, the gearshift column parts were not working – so the mechanic put in a 3-speed shift on the floor that seemed really tall. I was slightly leaned over when shifting up and over to second and down in to third.

    Girlfriend could sit close on the bench seat – it was also our honeymoon car. we have now been married 33 years. I drove the car (in Ohio) until the frame rusted apart several years later. I would shift and the car would fishtail.

    Like 2
  17. LarryS Member

    95% all original? Hard to parse that one. Really dislike it when all of the pictures show the car still wet after a wash. Makes it impossible to judge the condition and uniformity of the finish. Catalina 2 dr. hardtop with a 3 speed manual would be an unusual car to find today and you certainly wouldn’t see many others at your local cars n’ coffee. But this one has way too many questions.

    Like 5
  18. Bigbird

    You would need to see this one in person. If a daliy driver the 3-speed would get to you. I do believe there was no synro going ito 1st, you had to stop to get it back in first. These were so nice with the 4-speeds. The dual-quad motor looks to be from another engine bay…

    Like 1
    • LarryS Member

      I’ve owned a number of cars with 3 speeds on the column. I rather enjoyed them. The 389’s torque would make starting out from a rolling stop in second no problem. if this car were a firebreather that you were likely to use in a stop light grand prix (not Grand Prix, that’s a different model) I’d say a floor shift would be an improvement. But for just daily driving a column shift is fine and, these days, would make this Catalina stand out even more.

      Like 2
  19. VAMP

    original is always best…..

  20. Terry J

    Knew a guy or two back in the 60’s who had lost their Dads in WW2. When they turned 21 they received an insurance payout from the Govt. One bought a brand new ’65 Bonneville convertible, pale yellow white / white WOW! What a stunner. 421 with a floor shifted 3 speed. Such 3 speed cars were more common than one would think. If you wanted a stick, and checked the box that said 4 speed manual, your insurance premium was higher. Had 2 other friends who ordered new Mustang V8 coupes with floor shifted 3 speeds for the same reason. :-) Terry J

    Like 3
  21. Cdice

    My mother had a marina blue 63 Catalina with a white convertible top. Best looking car they ever owned.

    Like 3
  22. Mark

    I’d guess the photo with the Edelbrock dual quads was taken when they freshened up the motor, and the single four is what the seller put on to get rid of the car. The manifold is the only engine part that isn’t freshly painted.

    Like 1
  23. Andy Holt

    If you notice there are no bolts in the intake either.

  24. SDJames

    The photo of the dual carbs is of a different car. Look at the brake master cylinder, one has a booster. Probably an accidental upload.

    • Daral

      The firewall paint is black up to the lip in one photo and the other has body color dipping down ont firewall. All the discrepancies make a person more than a little suspicious. Although the seller does invite phone calls to ask any questions

  25. Bill McCoskey


    Both photos have a brake booster, the dual carb example’s booster is mostly hidden behind the air cleaners, but it’s there. The photos here have been cropped. Look at the photos on the original listing and you can see it’s the same car.

    Buyer beware!!!!! Since the seller has not mentioned thousands of Dollars worth of work on the engine, I would suggest getting a statement from the seller as to all the work & parts that are included, prior to even providing a deposit.

    The left head still has open water ports at the front of the head. Everyone I know who does head rebuilding closes those ports before installing the heads. I’m guessing these might be unbuilt heads that have been cleaned and blasted, but not yet have valves, rockers, etc. installed.

    If the timing chain cover still has spray paint on the cover bolts, It’s probably not been removed & replaced, so it’s surely got the stock cam inside. While it will run with the stock cam, it certainly won’t perform as one would expect with a dual 4bbl carb setup!

    And of course there is the question of how long the engine has been “open”. While it is in Arizona, even dry climates can still cause harm to an engine, especially with the fine dust typically found in Arizona’s winter wind.

    Best to pay a knowledgeable local expert to check out the car. May be the best couple of hundred Dollars you spend.

    Like 1
    • SDJames

      See it now, thanks for setting me straight!

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